Plot Summary

The plot of Nineteen Eighty-Four is in essence uncomplicated, though the complex ideas that underpin it belie its simplicity, even crudity. It is a Dystopian nightmare of a future of totalitarianism, one man's hopeless struggle against it, and his final defeat and acceptance of the system. The novel is set in the year 1984 in London, principal city of 'Airstrip One' in the super-state of Oceana - one of the three powers (the other two being Eurasia and Eastasia) that the world is divided into. A state of constant war and shifting alliances exists between these three powers, who all appear to have very similar political systems and philosophies. Within Oceana, life is control by the ultra-authoritarian 'Party' and led by its symbolic head, Big Brother. Within this state there are no laws, but one constant rule: total obedience in deed, word and thought. There are three essential slogans: 'WAR IS PEACE', 'FREEDOM IS SLAVERY', 'IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH', and language and thought are caught in the grip of the official language of 'Newspeak' and the ubiquitous practise of 'Doublethink' - 'the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously and accepting both of them.' Society is divided between a privileged Inner Parry, a subservient Outer Party, and an apparently semi-oblivious mass (85 percent of the population) of 'proles'.

The hero - though one with few heroic qualities - is Winston Smith, an Outer Party member and worker at the Ministry of Truth (that deals in Lies) as a routine falsifier of records. Winston is engaged in a seemingly futile and secret rebellion against conformity to the system. He keeps a diary where he relates his crude attempts at mental rebellion (or 'Thoughtcrime' as the Party would define it). All seems hopeless until he is approached by another Outer Party member Julia, who operates a novel-writing machine in the Ministry, and they begin an affair. Winston also thinks he recognises a kindred spirit in O'Brien a high-ranking Inner Party member. The couple approaches O'Brien, and he encourages them, promising to put them in touch with the 'Brotherhood', supposedly led by Big Brother's arch-enemy Emmanuel Goldstein. However, this turns out to be a ploy. They are arrested and separated. Winston is given the routine torture and interrogation before being brought to O'Brien who reveals the truths at the heart of the Party and the reality of Winston's attempt at rebellion. Inwardly broken, Winston is released before his final liquidation. Finally, he realises that he has won the battle against himself - he has learned to love Big Brother.

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